When your brain begins to play tricks, that’s when menopause may seem to be a mind-boggling experience for women especially when they tend to feel completely lost in the most familiar place. The brain and ovaries are important components of the neuroendocrine system. The health of the ovaries is dependent on the brain and vice-versa among women.
The brain communicates with the whole body through neurons powered by hormones. Estrogen levels keep the conversation between the ovaries and brain at the peak of its health from menarche for many years until ovaries reduce and stop producing estrogen upon reaching the menopausal phase.
What is brain fog?
The brain is dependent on hormones like estrogen to stimulate and energise certain regions of the brain as well. Estrogen produced in the ovaries is known to pump energy to various regions of the brain including the hypothalamus, hippocampus and more that control the functions of a women’s body. Estrogen influences several neurotransmitter systems, including acetylcholine, serotonin, noradrenaline, and glutamate thus playing a key role in the functionality of the brain.
When the estrogen levels decline during menopause, the flow of energy to the brain may be affected failing to stimulate different regions of the brain. As a result, menopausal women may find it difficult to concentrate and have trouble learning. They may draw blanks when they try to recall mundane things, experience forgetfulness, fatigue, and memory lapse mostly until post-menopause after which it may get back to normal or not.
According to many researchers, the temporary episodes of memory lapse and forgetfulness is called Brain fog. Neuroscientist, Lisa Mosconi, whose research is based mainly on women’s brain health explains that the various symptoms that women experience during menopause such as hot flashes, insomnia, night sweats, memory lapses, depression and anxiety don’t start in the ovaries. They start in the brain. As estrogen levels fall drastically during menopause, the neurons begin to age which might lead to Alzheimer’s Disease during old age and post-menopause, which is the main cause of dementia.
The brain is the cause of menopausal symptoms?
It is a known fact that most women experience menopause differently, which may mean that every brain develops and ages differently as well. Some women may experience severe menopausal symptoms, especially during perimenopause, while others may feel no difference through menopause and after. Their energy levels may remain the same throughout their life as well. However, for those who do undergo the vasomotor symptoms of menopause, it is believed that ovarian estrogen, known to stimulate the hypothalamus, brain stem and hippocampus of the brain is the reason behind this. When the declining estrogen levels fail to activate these areas of the brain, they may stir up the vasomotor symptoms of menopause that originate in the brain.
i) Hypothalamus is the area of the brain that regulates the motor functions of the body including the body temperature. When the hypothalamus is not stimulated well due to fluctuating hormonal levels, the perplexed brain cannot normalise the body temperature thereby causing the hot flashes that are one of the most common symptoms of perimenopause.
ii) Brain stem is another region in the brain that is stimulated by estrogen produced in the ovaries. This area is regulating the sleep cycles. When they are not stimulated properly, it leads to sleeplessness and insomnia that may enhance the stress levels adversely affecting the menopausal woman’s body balance. Sleeplessness is a common symptom during perimenopause as well.
iii) Hippocampus is the memory centre of the brain that regulates our emotions and ability to remember or recall. When the ovarian estrogen does not provide energy to this region of the brain and cause stimulation, it may lead to memory lapse and what we may experience as mood swings.
Protect brain function during menopause and after.
When we move beyond the stereotypes and change the way we perceive the menopause transition, we can see that there are many measures to be taken and remedies available to sail through the phase and age gracefully further on. Some of the lifestyle changes and ways to healthy ageing are as follows:
a) Natural supplements as remedies for brains on menopause
Supplementing your health with natural ingredients from the perimenopausal age can keep you fit and help you stay proactive in life. Hormone therapy to ease the brain fog and other symptoms may help to a certain extent during your mid-life years and perimenopause. But, when HRT is administered to women over 60s, it may become the cause for many conditions such as cardiovascular issues, cancer including Dementia. Therefore, when you consult your health expert regarding alternative remedies for menopause, they may suggest natural supplements to alleviate the symptoms and to maintain a healthy brain function. Supplements like Femarelle contain plant-based estrogen receptors, Omega 3 from flaxseeds and are rich in the vitamins, minerals, proteins, calcium, and antioxidants that are essential to alleviate the symptoms of menopause and to maintain good brain health among women.
b) Mediterranean diet is meant for menopausal women.
Nutrition is fundamental to maintain good brain health and overall wellness among menopausal women. The food in Mediterranean cuisine contains essential nutrients such as Omega 3 from fish and seafood, which is much needed for cognitive function. Phytoestrogen from legumes, flaxseeds, diet chocolate and more alleviate the symptoms of menopause. The vegetables included in this cuisine are rich in minerals like potassium and magnesium that are vital to protect women from developing cardiovascular issues. That is not all. Mediterranean diet may be suitable for weight loss among menopausal women.
c) Rest well and sleep tight.
Getting 8 hours of sleep is as important as Mediterranean food for menopausal women. Loss of sleep may induce stress, which steals away the estrogen from the existing fluctuating levels during menopause. Tracking your sleep schedule, learning relaxation techniques, reducing caffeine intake can help to induce a good night’s sleep.
d) Get moving and exercise until you break a sweat!
Including strength exercises and cardio workouts such as walking, swimming, aerobics, dance, tennis, weights, boxing, Yoga etc. can help women during menopause.
e) Don’t forget to exercise your brain.
Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, musical instruments, word games and reading are some of the ways to keep the brain proactive and healthy.
f) Accommodate changes in your Lifestyle.
According to Oxford University-educated neuroscientist, Dr Sarah McKay, some of the lifestyle changes like nurturing a supportive social network, good sleep hygiene, healthy diet, giving up the smoking habit and alcohol consumption is essential for maintaining good brain functionality and are some of the best remedies for menopause as well.
Most women may not be aware of this. But studies show that the brain drain leads to a minimum of 30 % drop in energy levels after menopause. And women are known to be more prone to Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia in their old age after menopause. With memory lapses, brain fog and other conditions like stress, sleeplessness and more during menopause, the chances of being prone to Dementia may be more for women than men.
However, menopausal women may have preferred to lose all that extra weight as easily as they may lose their temper, the trail of thought or memory due to hormone-related brain fog.